Research activities of the “Biology of the egg and physiology of the hen” team

Research activities of the “Biology of the egg and physiology of the hen” team

Research activities of the “Biology of the egg and physiology of the hen” team

To improve the knowledge on hen’s physiology and egg’s biology, the team interests focus on the physiological mechanisms that are involved in egg formation and biological functions of its compounds during embryonic development. The study of various factors likely to affect positively or negatively egg quality and physiology/health of the hen, allows us to propose tools to improve rearing conditions of animals and ethics of laying hen’s production, and to control both the quality table eggs and that of fertilised eggs that are required to produce broilers and layers.

Team leaders: Joël Gautron et Sophie Réhault-Godbert

Overview of the objectives:

The first objective of the team is to generate fundamental knowledge on the physiology of the hen and the biological functions of the egg. The second objective is to improve the sustainability of rearing systems of laying hens and egg production by 1) identifying indicators of egg quality (table eggs and hatching eggs), 2) improving laying hen production and rearing (alternatives to the culling of one-day male chicks, nutrition, genetics, production systems), and 3) optimising storage and/or incubation conditions (table and hatching eggs). Many of these research programs are conducted in collaboration with other BOA teams and under the framework of the “UMT BECOME”.

Research topics:

- Calcium homeostasis (bone health of laying hens, eggshell quality, and skeletal quality of the embryo)

The biosynthesis of the avian eggshell (made of calcium carbonate) occurs in the uterus and depends on the bioavailability of the calcium that is partly stored in hen’s bones. Our objective is to understand the physiological mechanisms that are involved in the transfer of minerals from the intestine to bones, from bones to the eggshell, and from the eggshell to the embryo skeleton. In parallel, we explore various strategies that could facilitate the maintenance of bone health of laying hens while preserving the quality of both the eggshell and the skeleton of the chick.

Axe 1 BOPP

- Egg formation

By studying the transcriptomic, secretory and functional profiles of hens tissues, by the characterisation of the structure, the physicochemistry and the biochemistry of egg compounds (structures and molecules), and via comparative approaches with eggs of different origins (selected lines of broilers and layers, and other birds), we aim at  improving our knowledge on the physiology of egg formation.

Axe 2 BOPP

-Biological functions of egg

A better characterization of the extraembryonic structures and the molecular compounds of eggs, combined to the analysis of their activity and their evolution during embryonic development allows the identification of their respective role while exploring their kinetics of maturation/degradation that accompany embryonic development. In parallel, the biochemical and functional characterization of purified proteins (or recombinant proteins) together with the characterisation of their 3D structure contribute to better understand their structure/activity relationships and the impact of some natural protein mutations. Some of these activities (for example antimicrobial proteins and peptides) can also be used for human health applications (alternatives to conventional antibiotics) or food industries (food preservatives), while the identification of the proteins involved in eggshell biomineralisation opens innovative applications for the production of organic additives in the materials sector.

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-Egg quality (table eggs)

The hygienic quality of eggs essentially relies on the integrity of the eggshell and egg internal structures (egg white and vitelline membrane). These structures limit the penetration and development of pathogenic bacteria that are responsible for food outbreaks. The integrity of the various egg structures is assessed through various indicators of freshness and/or quality that reflect their physical and physicochemical characteristics. Our research activities in this topic mainly focus on the effects of various factors related to the hen (genetics, nutrition, rearing systems...) and conditions of egg storage (duration, temperature, atmosphere) on these parameters, and on the biochemical composition of egg structures. We also study contrasted conditions (optimal versus degraded egg quality) to identify quality markers of table eggs (molecular markers, gene polymorphisms) that may be used by breeders to increase egg quality.

Axe 4 BOPP

-Characterisation of fertilised eggs

In the poultry sector, fertilised eggs are important for the production of broiler chickens (meat strains) and laying hens (egg-laying strains). To increase the viability of eggs and optimise the development of the embryo, we experiment various conditions of storage and incubation. In addition, the comparison of the molecular profile of eggs hosting a male embryo to those hosting a female embryo allows us to identify sex dimorphic biomarkers that may help to develop early ovosexing methods. 

Axe 5 BOPP

On-going projects:

projets BOPP

H2020 PPILOW, Poultry and PIg Low-input and Organic production systems’ Welfare 2019-2024. Partner.
- ANR EQLIPSE, Enhancing the Quality and the Level of Internal Protections of Shell Eggs. 2019-2023. Coordinator.
- UMT- BECOME - Bien-être, Éleveurs, COnsommateurs et MarchEs (Welfare, Farmers, Consumers and Markets). 2023-2028. Partner
- Research project Institut Carnot F2E HEEBS « HyD Effect on Egg and Bone Status ». Partner. 2022-2025. Coordinator


Past projects:

CASDAR Chick’tip. 2018-2021. Partner.
- Research project Institut Carnot F2E “Bone and EggShell Quality ». 2018-2022. Partner.
Research project Institut Carnot F2E « D-shell ». 2019. Coordinator.
- Research project Institut Carnot F2E « D-shell2 et D-Shell2 Proteomics ». 2021-2022. Coordinator
Research project ’Intérêt Régional Centre Val de Loire « Volailles ». 2018-2022. Valorisation de l’Origine, Liens entre Acteurs, Identités LocaLes, Évolutions du Secteur avicole (Valuation of origin, links between actors, local identities, evolution of the poultry sector). Partner.
Research project AGENAVI « Polcacao ». 2019-2021. POLymorphismes CAndidats de la CAlcification de la coquille de l’Œuf de poule (candidate polymorphisms of the calcification of the hen's egg shell). Partner. 
Research project Studium Professorship. Maxwell Hincke (Univ. Ottawa). 2018-2021. Innate immunity at biomineralized barriers. 
Research project. SAPhyr-11, Structure-Activity and Phylogenetic Relationships of avian beta-defensin 11. 2017-2020. Coordinator. Région Centre Val de Loire.
- Partenarial Consortium UMT-BIRD. 2017-2021.

Major publications :

Top-ten main publications (2020-2023)

Maeva Halgrain, Nelly Bernardet, Christelle Hennequet-Antier, Maxwell Hincke, and Sophie Réhault- Godbert. RNA-seq analysis of the active chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane reveals genes that encode proteins assigned to ion transport and innate immunity. Genomics, 115(2):110564, March 2023. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2023.110564. URL

 Thierry Moreau, Joël Gautron, Maxwell T. Hincke, Philippe Monget, Sophie Réhault-Godbert, and Nicolas Guyot. Antimicrobial proteins and peptides in avian eggshell: Structural diversity and potential roles in biomineralization. Frontiers in Immunology, 13:1–29, July 2022. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2022.946428. URL

 Hans Adriaensen, Vanille Parasote, Ines Castilla, Nelly Bernardet, Maeva Halgrain, François Lecompte, and Sophie Réhault-Godbert. How Egg Storage Duration Prior to Incubation Impairs Egg Quality and Chicken Embryonic Development: Contribution of Imaging Technologies. Frontiers in Physiology, 13, May 2022. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.902154. URL

 Nicolas Guyot, Céline Landon, and Philippe Monget. The Two Domains of the Avian Double-β-Defensin AvBD11 Have Different Ancestors, Common with Potential Monodomain Crocodile andTurtle Defensins. Biology, 11(5), April 2022. doi: 10.3390/biology11050690. URL

 Joël Gautron, Clara Dombre, Francoise Nau, Cyril Feidt, and Laurent Guillier. Review: Production factors affecting the quality of chicken table eggs and egg products in Europe. Animal, 16 (Suppl 1):100425, February 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.animal.2021.100425. URL

 Mégane Brégeon, Daniel Tomas, Benoît Bernay, Céline Zatylny-Gaudin, Sonia Georgeault, Valérie Labas, Sophie Réhault-Godbert, and Nicolas Guyot. Multifaceted roles of the egg perivitelline layer in avian reproduction: Functional insights from the proteomes of chicken egg inner and outer sublayers. Journal of Proteomics, 258:104489, January 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2022.104489. URL

 Joël Gautron, Sophie Réhault-Godbert, T.G.H. van de Braak, and I.C. Dunn. Review: What are the challenges facing the table egg industry in the next decades and what can be done to address them? Animal, 15, 2021b. doi: 10.1016/j.animal.2021.100282. URL

 Lilian Stapane, Nathalie Le Roy, Jacky Ezagal, Alejandro Rodriguez-Navarro, Valérie Labas, Lucie Combes-Soia, Maxwell Hincke, and Joël Gautron. Avian eggshell formation reveals a new paradigm for vertebrate mineralization via vesicular amorphous calcium carbonate. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 295(47):15853–15869, November 2020. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA120.014542. URL

 Nicolas Guyot, Sascha Trapp, Herve Meudal, Sophie Iochmann, Anne Silvestre, Guillaume Jousset, Valérie Labas, Pascale Reverdiau, Karine Loth, Virginie Herve, Vincent Aucagne, A.F. Delmas, Sophie Réhault-Godbert, and Céline Landon. Structure, function, and evolution of Gga -AvBD11, the archetype of the structural avian-double-β-defensin family. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(1):337–345, January 2020. doi:10.1073/pnas.1912941117. URL

 Audrey Gloux, Nathalie Le Roy, Nathalie Même, Marie-Liesse Piketty, Dominique Prié, Gaëlle Benzoni, Joël Gautron, Yves Nys, Agnès Narcy, Michel Jacques Duclos. Increased expression of fibroblast growth factor 23 is the signature of a deteriorated Ca/P balance in ageing laying hens. Scientific Reports, 2020, 10 (1), doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-78106-7.

Modification date : 01 August 2023 | Publication date : 19 January 2018 | Redactor : Com VdL